In the late 1980s, while I was writing Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, someone named Richard Yao was all the rage. Yao had founded a group called Fundamentalists Anonymous, and to hear him tell it fundamentalism—a term that was thrown about loosely then just as it is now—constituted a threat to mental health and was responsible for every malady imaginable, from bunions to the national debt.

The media were delirious, especially during the ratings bonanza of the televangelist scandals. Yao appeared on virtually every talk show (the modern equivalent of the confessional) to trumpet his deliverance from the icy clutches of fundamentalism. Mercifully, Yao’s self-congratulatory 15 minutes of fame expired years ago, but the cottage industry of ex-fundamentalist memoirs continues to thrive. An American Gospel is merely the latest in that genre.


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